Reality shows like "Blown Away" or "Great British Baking Show"
December 13, 2021 7:55 AM   Subscribe

We've been enjoying the reality show "Blown Away," which features glassmakers competing against one another to make great art. Can you recommend any other reality shows like this that are uplifting, educational, and focus on the skill of the competitors rather than any "drama" between them? I'd also put the Great British Baking Show (which we like, too) in this category. Thanks for your ideas!
posted by DavidNYC to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
Also on Netflix: Glow Up (make-up artists doing some spectacular looks); Metal Shop Masters (metal art fabricators).
posted by fikri at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

The Great Pottery Throwdown is about ceramics; all four seasons are on HBO Max. It is delightful. Even though the contestants lived together in the last season (COVID bubble), there is zero non-pottery drama.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2021 [25 favorites]

The Repair Shop it was on Netflix, but I've just checked and it's gone, if you're up to use a VPN you can access it on the BBC One website. It's about some very talented people restoring antiques. Actually fixing not just slapping paint on things and calling it a restoration. You get some fun talented people interactions, you get the stories of the items from the people bringing them in and learn a little history too.
posted by wwax at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2021 [10 favorites]

The Great British Sewing Bee.
The Great Pottery Throwdown.
The Great Model Railway Challenge.
The Big Flower Fight.

I do also love The Repair Shop.

I love this genre of show so I'll be watching this thread.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:03 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Forged in Fire is a big one. I have less than 0 interest in forging, metal, knives, etc but it's still pretty interesting & watchable and the vibe is very pleasant.
posted by bleep at 8:03 AM on December 13, 2021 [8 favorites]

Oh, and the British Robot Wars, if you can find it anywhere, often had a lot of comraderie, as I recall, in between the robot fighting.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:05 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

One last one: MasterChef, the UK version, also scratches this itch for me
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:06 AM on December 13, 2021

Handmade: Britain's Best Woodworker (hosted by Mel Giedroyc!)
posted by Jeanne at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

Not sure if you count this as art or not, but Lego Masters was so much fun. They definitely tried to play up the banter and goofiness of competitors a bit more than GBBS, but the builds were amazing and varied, the shows were genuinely funny, and we did learn a few things here and there.
posted by Mchelly at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

GBBO and Blown Away are two of the three reality series I've ever finished. The third is Hyperdrive and I am not into cars at all but it just worked for me. It'll also very gorgeous as they're driving around a track at night with lots of neon. It's also on Netflix.
posted by carolr at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Face Off, the effects makeup competition show, is fantastic. I don't know if it's still on or where to watch it (I haven't seen it in several years), but it's worth finding it and watching old seasons at least. It's just a big group of all the Weird Kids you've ever known, they cooperate, the experts they bring in explain things well, it's a format (on screen practical effects!) that the viewer is entirely able to judge from the couch at home, and there's actual hope of the contestants finding paid work in their chosen career path based on the exposure they get on this show. For a show that's got more than the standard amount of partially dismembered and rotting limbs, it's just really nice.
posted by phunniemee at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2021 [11 favorites]

The Australian version of MasterChef (which runs at something like 60 episodes per season, so mucho content), at least as of 2-3 years ago, was really warm and fuzzy. You will have to acquire it via obfuscation, though.

The Big Family Cooking Showdown, currently on NetFlix

We only started watching Crime Scene Kitchen because a friend of ours was on the crew, but it was an interesting premise (each pair of contestants was given a certain amount of time to investigate a kitchen in which something had been baked, and they had to make whatever they decided it was), and it was actually delightful.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:18 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

NBC has a couple of seasons of Making It which is a crafting competition modeled after GBBO and I LOVE it, everyone is so sweet to each other. They also just released Baking It which is a holiday baking competition with no actual drama, very GBBO. All can be found on Peacock.
posted by whitetigereyes at 8:19 AM on December 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

The Great Canadian Baking Show is sweet too.
posted by stray at 8:27 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Full Bloom (HBO) is a wonderful floral design competition.
The Mighty Underdogs (Discovery) is about junior dog handling.

My last two recommendations might seem weird since they are shows about "the worst" but actually they are shows about teaching people how to do things better/more safely. Obviously the participants are not highly skilled. I've found that watching people learn life skills is awesome.

Worst Cooks in America (Discovery) is super heartwarming. There is drama but only in the sense of "wow that looks really unappetizing ew" or "I can't get over how that person just touched the raw meat and then the salad oh no".

My ultimate favorite is Canada's Worst Driver. It's only available to watch on YouTube as far as I know. My husband is not a fan of drama or reality shows and he also loves it. I feel like the host and the experts on the show are doing a very real public service.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 8:27 AM on December 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

As Padma Lakshmi gradually took over the show, Top Chef has quite confidently grown into a show about the raw skill and artistry of the contestants.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:30 AM on December 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

American Ninja Warrior, though it depends on your definition of educational. But I find it fascinating to learn about the training and strategy.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:31 AM on December 13, 2021

Response by poster: Not sure if you count this as art or not

Oh yeah, I meant "art" really, really broadly! Just any finished product, honestly, as long as skill is involved. I've enjoyed "Forged in Fire," too.
posted by DavidNYC at 8:42 AM on December 13, 2021

American Barbecue Showdown was better than it deserved to be.
posted by so fucking future at 8:44 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

The original British version (I'm seeing a trend here...) of Junkyard Wars might qualify, even though the finished objects barely survive the challenge, and will shortly be dismantled (I mean, a hovercraft made from tarps and box fans isn't a very desirable or useful object outside of the show)
posted by aramaic at 8:45 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’ve heard good things about Chocolate School on Netflix though I haven’t watched it myself yet. My understanding is that there are no eliminations, just that the bottom of the bunch gets extra time for a one on one session with a master teacher
posted by raccoon409 at 8:48 AM on December 13, 2021 [9 favorites]

This only aired for one year: Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. Puppeteers and animatronics designers all compete for the grand prize of "a contract with Jim Henson's Creature Shop".

I was casually dating a guy going for his MFA in puppetry when this was on; based on conversations on puppet construction we'd had, this captured a lot of the process pretty well. But I was also really impressed that when any of the judges gave anyone constructive criticism, not a single person got defensive or turned it down; they accepted it as constructive criticism. Sometimes they even agreed with it ("So...yeah, it was a good idea, but that fur work looks a little patchy." "...Yeah, I see that now, you got a point.")

It also was the source of a quote I was using for a while - on one of the shows, someone was able to do some kind of lightning-fast move and catch something before it fell to the floor, and when everyone marvelled and asked him "how did you do that?" he said "I'm made of panthers."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on December 13, 2021 [8 favorites]

Australian Masterchef is free on Tubi.

posted by Ardnamurchan at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Glow Up....British show with talented young makeup artists competing. I rarely wear makeup and my husband never does, but we both love Glow Up. Models are of various genders.
posted by wryly at 9:04 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I second Making It and I'm hopeful that Baking It (with Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg) is as ridiculous and charming as it looks.
posted by annaramma at 9:11 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

+1 for Great British Sewing Bee. It absolutely has that same sense of the competitors all being great friends and supporting one another, while they aim high with their craft and either create incredible things that have you oohing and ahhing, or fall short and fail terribly while still being held and uplifted by their fellow competitors.
posted by penguin pie at 9:11 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

The original British version (I'm seeing a trend here...) of Junkyard Wars.

Ah, I assume you mean Scrapheap Challenge? That was great, although I don't know if it's available anywhere.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:17 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's a British show called Salvage Hunters: The Restorers, which has a wide variety of craftspeople who take antiques and repair/restore them, and my wife and I like it a lot. (it's "parent" show, Salvage Hunters, is like American Pickers but with castles in the english countryside, if you like that genre too). Discovery channel in the US airs episodes sporadically, usually early in the morning.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:24 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

All That Glitters is jewelry making, also british, also on HBOMax.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:39 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another UK favourite is Bargain Hunt (BBC1) if you can find it, where two teams compete against each other by buying antiques. The actual 'competition' is no stronger than people saying 'We're here to win!' The skill is mostly down to the antiques experts who help them, but some people are great negotiators.

Seconding UK Masterchef.

Lots of people love Strictly Come Dancing (the UK version of Dancing with the Stars I think it's called).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:40 AM on December 13, 2021

The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts. Review of first episode and links to reviews of the other episodes. There is a brief blog post about it by one of the crafters, Niamh Wimperis. There are also the various Portrait Artist and Landscape Artist series, also reviewed on the Making a Mark blog I've linked to.

The Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands historical programmes might also work. They are not competitive but are uplifting, educational and focus on skill. There have been some discussions of these on MF - Ever want to watch a history nerd go shrimping? and If you like watching other people work hard. In searching for these, I also found this question which might be relevant: Relaxing by watching other people work.
posted by paduasoy at 9:41 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was hooked on FaceOff for a while. It was fascinating to learn so much about how people do the special effects makeup that we see on TV and in movies. And unlike baking shows, it is a visual art so you can get the full impact of the work by watching. The competition has that same quality of being focused on the art, not the interpersonal drama. There are 13 season so if you like it, it will keep you busy for a while.
posted by metahawk at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

CBC just ran a show called Race Against the Tide about sand sculpting that was good.
Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix gets a little bitchy at times, but is mostly pretty low key on the drama. The second season contestants are mostly supremely annoying, though.
Skin Wars, about body painting, though they changed the format at some point and it got weird.
American BBQ Showdown, as someone suggested above, where you can meet Rasheed, who is truly the greatest person ever to be on television. I mean, if there was a show called Rasheed Does Stuff, I would watch it, even if Rasheed didn't actually do any stuff.
There's also a show on Netflix called Bake Squad where no one gets eliminated and its just professional chefs competing against each other to make the most ridiculous things for people's special events. I kinda do not like Christina Tosi, but she is not that important to the show and she doesn't make any of the cool things.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

More votes for Full Bloom and the first couple seasons of Worst Cook in America.
posted by itesser at 11:49 AM on December 13, 2021

There are 3 seasons of Portrait Artist of the Year streaming on Amazon and it's really great. No drama whatsoever.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:13 PM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Someone upthread recommended Chocolate School on Netflix. It's pretty okay. It does not rise to the level of GBBO but it is very nice that there are no eliminations, and the host -- a famous chocolate specialist -- really seems to be there to help the contestants improve their skills. He's never mean, and he sometimes dives in to help the chefs.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:17 PM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seasons 2-11 of So You think you can Dance (the USA one!) were Zero Drama, and all about maximal performance and artistry. EVERY. KIND. OF. DANCER. (Hiphop, ballet, ballroom, contemporary, tap, jazz, crunk, many many other street styles).....all had to reach their artistic maximum. It was super impressive. The judging was good, the performances were great and all the performers supported each other. Highly recommend.

The later seasons are hit-and miss because of pandering to a teen demographic with less impressive judging.....and more dubious choices for material. There was still little-to-zero manufactured drama....
posted by lalochezia at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

My family also enjoyed Face Off, which I am the third person to mention. One thing we especially liked was, if time was running out, other contestants who were farther ahead would jump in to help struggling competitors complete their work—getting items out of molds, for instance. It was like, they wanted to win, but because somebody ran out of time. We thought it was a great show that routinely included sportsmanship as well as competition.
posted by Orlop at 2:52 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed baking impossible.
posted by Jacen at 4:22 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I saw some portion of Australia's The Chef's Line not-too-many-years-ago and it was so lovely and good-spirited and grounded in good food and multi-ethnic and gentle and bursting with talented professional and home cooks.
posted by youarenothere at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2021

OMG I did not know Portrait Artist of the Year was on Amazon!
I watched a lot of those on YouTube, where you can also find some seasons of Landscape Artist of the Year, which is also excellent.
The Great British Sewing Bee, mentioned above, is awesome but I don’t know where to watch it. (The ones I saw were on YouTube).
posted by Glinn at 7:37 PM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

He's never mean, and he sometimes dives in to help the chefs.

I really enjoy the gentler competition that School of Chocolate offers.
posted by kingless at 5:59 AM on December 14, 2021

Christmas Light Fight, if you enjoy Christmas things! Families who have clearly been the neighborhood weirdos for a long time, showing off their amazing handcrafted and ridiculously creative home light displays. It's cute, impressive and very very kind.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, two additional suggestions . . . there's not competitions, but they do have a set reality format. Money for Nothing and The Repair Shop are utterly charming. They emphasize teamwork, ingenuity and the emotional connection to household objects.
posted by annaramma at 10:28 PM on December 14, 2021

Lots of +1 to titles mentioned above, especially the Big Flower Fight, American Barbecue Showdown, School of Chocolate, Forged in Fire and Chef's Line (if you can get it outside Australia, it is available for free on SBS On Demand but that may be geoblocked).

I also enjoyed Top Chef, though it is definitely more High Drama than others.

Not previously mentioned: Baking Impossible which teams up an engineer and a baker to make edible cars that have to be driven by remote control round an obstacle course or an edible Rube Goldberg contraption, enormous fun.

We are the Champions is a limited docuseries about a variety of competitions from yoyos to frog jumping to racing a cheese rolling down a hill. Yep. Oddly sweet and quite cool.

There are a whole bunch of Sugar Rush series and holiday specials on Netflix which are pretty low key on the competitive side, not quite as friendly as GBBO but pretty nice. And I can't believe no one has suggested Nailed It! (and its various country spin-offs) which admittedly may be because the contestants are really not skilled at all but there is still something heart-warming about it.

Next in Fashion did get a little heated and High Drama in bits but there was also a lot of talent and I think a lot of growth and development in it too.

There are a bunch more but I'm running out of steam for links (I'm on my phone and I can feel a migraine coming on) so will just give you some titles: The Final Table, Million Pound Menu, Restaurants on the Edge, Crazy Delicious, Interior Design Masters. It's a genre I've gotten quite addicted to over the pandemic apparently and there's a lot of them on Netflix - yet somehow I'm always on the lookout for more!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:45 AM on December 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Recent seasons of Top Chef feel that way to me. Maybe the last 5 seasons? Prior seasons, especially the very very early ones were high drama but it has really settled into a nice comfort watch groove for me.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:40 PM on December 15, 2021

Both for my own future reference, and for anyone who stumbles upon this post, here's a roundup of all the recommended shows:

All That Glitters
American Barbecue Showdown
American Ninja Warrior
Australia's The Chef's Line
Bake Squad
Baking Impossible
Baking It
Bargain Hunt (BBC1)
Big Flower Fight
Blown Away
British Robot Wars
Canada's Worst Driver
Chocolate School
Christmas Light Fight
Crazy Delicious
Crime Scene Kitchen
Face Off
Forged in Fire
Full Bloom
Glow Up
Handmade: Britain's Best Woodworker
Interior Design Masters
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge
Junkyard Wars / Scrapheap Challenge
Landscape Artist of the Year
Lego Masters
Making It
MasterChef Australia / MasterChef UK
Metal Shop Masters
Million Pound Menu
Money for Nothing
Nailed It!
Next in Fashion
Portrait Artist of the Year
Race Against the Tide
Restaurants on the Edge
Salvage Hunters: The Restorers
School of Chocolate
Skin Wars
So You Think You Can Dance (Seasons 2-11)
Strictly Come Dancing
Sugar Rush series
The Big Family Cooking Showdown
The Big Flower Fight
The Final Table
The Great British Bake Off / The Great British Baking Show
The Great British Sewing Bee
The Great Canadian Baking Show
The Great Model Railway Challenge
The Great Pottery Throwdown
The Mighty Underdogs
The Repair Shop
The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts
Top Chef (Most Recent 5 Seasons)
We Are The Champions
Worst Cooks in America
Zumbo's Just Desserts
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:14 AM on December 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

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